Michael Holupka was adamant, and school officials weren't sure why. But it was clear during a meeting with them at Osbourn Park High School last November that the longtime athletic booster really wanted expensive, rubberized floors for the school's new fitness center.
A less expensive tile floor simply would not do because weights might drop on it and cause long-term damage, Holupka argued. What about tile floors, with rubber around the equipment? Not so pretty, he told them.
"After the meeting, I said, 'Mike, I am not sure the boosters are going to go for it. He said, 'Don't worry about it,' " Principal Timothy Healey recalled. "Then he said he was going to pay for it, and then it made sense why he was choosing all the best stuff. I was speechless."
Now, about a year after the meeting, the facility at the Manassas area high school is about to open. Its name: the Mike and Kathy Holupka Strength and Conditioning Center. The School Board voted last week to name the facility after the Holupkas because, after all, they're the ones who donated the $500,000 to build and equip it.
"I grew up in a small coal-mining town, where we didn't have much," Michael Holupka, 63, said last week. "I became successful, and I just don't believe you can be successful and put everything in your pocket and take. You need to give something back."
Lucy S. Beauchamp (At Large), chairman of the Prince William County School Board, said the sizable gift is one of the most generous donations from a family to the school system in recent memory.
"Even more than the money, it's the amount of attention they give to the project. The mat on the floor has a picture of a yellow jacket [the school mascot] in the middle," she said. "This is going to make the students at that school feel thankful and very special."
Holupka, who retired as the president of a construction company and later founded an excavation company, served as the facility's general contractor, Healey said. After the school system approved the project, Healey said, a bidding process was not needed because the money and the facility were a private donation.
The new facility -- featuring $70,000 worth of equipment including computerized treadmills and bicycles and a conference room for health classes -- is part of a trend among high schools that are getting rid of dingy weight rooms and replacing them with fitness centers that can be used by athletes and non-athletes. The facility is about 4,000 square feet, whereas the old weight room was about 1,500 square feet, said Dan Evans, the school's activities director.
The old weight room often got backed up, forcing students to wait a long time to use the equipment. That meant they would have to take a bus leaving school as late as 5:30 p.m. to get home, Evans said.
Holupka said he views the facility as a kind of payback for the education given to his three children, all Osbourn Park alumni: Tracey Holupka, who owns a marketing firm in Alexandria; Tricia Sheppard, who works for her family's excavation company; and Robert Holupka, a business major at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina.
He also said it is difficult to forget how school officials, including Healey and Evans, reacted when he told them he was going to finance the whole thing out of his own pocket.
"Both of their mouths were open," said Holupka. "I think Mr. Evans had tears in his eyes."